Gillette College district starts receiving money

GILLETTE — Trustees for the newly formed Gillette Community College District had and still have a long list of things to do before it achieves true independence.

And many of those things require money, which the new district still does not have.

But this week, GCCD and the Northern Wyoming Community College District worked together to find a solution to that problem, when the two districts took the first of many steps in completing an agreement on how to handle the ongoing transition of Gillette College.

Trustees for both districts voted last week to approve the statutorily obligated agreement between them as well as the early details, which cover the transfer of money earmarked for Gillette College from NWCCD to the new district.

The broader agreement binds the two districts while GCCD reaches its own accreditation, which could take up to five years. As more details of managing the split are agreed upon, they will be attached and added to the existing agreement.

The agreement will ultimately include plans for transferring employees, insurance obligations, debt, property, money and other items as necessary.

For now, the deal sends $879,567 from NWCCD to GCCD. That money comes from:

  • About $271,812 in Optional 1-percent Sales Tax funding from the city of Gillette and Campbell County
  • $335,535 from the Campbell County Board of Cooperative Higher Education Services, or BOCHES
  • About $65,070 in bookstore fund balance
  • $207,143 in matching funds from the state intended for Gillette College

However, the money is not in the new district’s coffers just yet. GCCD will have to propose a plan to NWCCD for how to send and receive the funds, according to the approved document.

“We are in the process and continue to work with our city and county stakeholders, as well as our BOCHES stakeholders, to make sure the transfer of funds goes smoothly,” interim GCCD President Janell Oberlander said at the meeting.

The agreement also transferred the debt for Inspiration Hall from NWCCD to the new district. It is the newest student dorm on the Gillette College campus and has been closed since last academic year.

About $980,125 is still owed to the city of Gillette for the building, with the next payment of $244,871.18 due July 1.

Those payments are now the new district’s obligation, but trustee Josh McGrath, who is on the committee negotiating the transfer, said that NWCCD representatives have expressed willingness to cover that payment and be reimbursed at a later date if the new district is still on a tight budget next summer.

Payments for Inspiration Hall are scheduled to run through 2025.

“This will carry us into the time that we will be able to access mill levy dollars in the next fiscal year budget,” said GCCD Chairman Robert Palmer.

The mill levy the college will receive has not been determined yet, and the district won’t receive it until the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“This money was earmarked to be used for Gillette College and gives GCCD the operating budget it needs to move forward with other necessary action steps in the process of becoming its own independent district, such as hiring employees,” said NWCCD President Walt Tribley in a press release.

Trustees and Oberlander worked toward acquiring a loan to cover the district’s preliminary budget and expenses during the current fiscal year. But state law may require that the district have its mill levy set and in the process of being collected before it can borrow money, trustee Alison Ochs Gee said.

“Once we set the mill and start collecting, it will be fine. It’s just this gap,” she said.

Ochs Gee, Oberlander, Palmer and McGrath are on the committee working with representatives from Sheridan College on the transition agreement. This week, they said that NWCCD has been willing and helpful in the negotiations.

“These are hard discussions but my sense is they’re really working hard to try and find some middle ground and work with us,” Ochs Gee said. “I think we need to publicly appreciate the work that they’re doing.”

McGrath echoed that sentiment. Trustees and representatives from both districts met in Buffalo last month to work with a mediator on a set of shared values to build their ongoing transition discussions on. Through the early stages of that process, the shared values have been maintained.

Trustees have spoken about the lack of clarity that exists in how to establish the first new community college district in Wyoming since 1968.

The new district came into some money but still needs to clarify how to receive it. There are still many unknowns to navigate in the months and years to come.